awesome

Cooking Once a Month is Awesome

Some of advice I ever got about Grad School was from a former professor who told me how batch-cooking and freezing meals helped her complete her dissertation. This simple strategy makes a huge difference in terms of productivity and eating healthy (if you choose recipes carefully).  For most of us our leisure time is limited (and sacred), especially if you are balancing family life and a demanding career. Who doesn’t want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time playing, connecting with others, being active, and having a life!

Batch cooking may just be your ticket!  The basic idea is that you cook multiple meals on one day and freeze most of them so that you have less prep down the road.  I’ve been doing this on a weekly basis for a while now but recently I felt like I was in the kitchen all the time so I started looking for new ways to do this.

After scouring the web I found several menu subscription services but nothing that offered many choices – most had 1 menu a month, take it or leave it. So of course I decided to do it on my own but I got quickly frustrated because there aretoo many recipes to choose from on the internet and I couldn’t decide which ones I wanted to make. It was taking up a lot of my time and the whole point was to save time and make life easier – not spend hours trying to decide what I wanted to have for dinner!

Finally, I found Once a Month Meals – a group of moms who offer several types of menus (e.g. traditional, vegetarian, paleo, etc.) to choose from and make it easy for you to cook meals for an entire month.  For each menu you get the recipes, an organized shopping list, prep day instructions (chopping, etc.), cooking day instructions, thaw list (to help you plan when to take things out of the freezer so you can eat them), serving day instructions (some recipes have add-ons or need cooking), and labels. Obviously it would take a few hours to do all this on your own!

You can also swap meals to make your own custom menu if there is something that you don’t like.  Just enough choice to be flexible without being overwhelming. The other great thing about Once a Month Meals is that they provide very helpful tips and resources to help you every step of the way and save you a lot of headaches.  For example, starting with a mini menu rather than a full menu was a really good idea.

I signed up immediately and yesterday I did my first mini menu.  It was a huge success!  Take a look at how my day went:

Before the big day:

  1. Pick your menu. I chose to do a mini-menu because I only had 1 day free to do everything (shop, prep, and cook).
  2. Decide how many people you are cooking for.  Even though there’s just me and my son I chose to cook for 4 people so that I would get more meals for basically the same amount of work. (Tricky, I know lol) The recipes and shopping list automatically update to correspond to the number of meals you select. Thank you Once a Month Meals!  This is super helpful.
  3. Check supplies and ingredients in your kitchen.  Do you really have 4 apples in the fridge for that recipe? Do you have a slow-cooker if you need one?  Cross-check the shopping list with your inventory and makes notes so you won’t forget.
  4. Add other things you want to buy for the week to your list. The menus don’t cover all of your meals and snacks so add in whatever else you need for the week. For us that’s stuff like milk, yogurt, salad greens for lunches, coffee, etc.

Shopping tips:

  1. Bring a pen so you can check off everything as you put it in your cart.
  2. Be prepared to spend more than your typical shopping trip. You are cooking more than you usually would so obviously it will cost more money. However, it also will save money because you will waste less food and make fewer last-minute trips to the grocery store or fast food joints.  (If you have time and energy for price-matching and/or coupon clipping this can help you save money too).
  3. Don’t go shopping when it is busy. Not something that I enjoy anyway but if you are trying to buy a lot of food it can be overwhelming to deal with a ton of people at the same time.

Prepping and Cooking:

I decided to prep and cook each recipe 1 at a time. The fine folks at Once a Month Meals recommend doing prep the night before your cooking day and I think that would be faster, especially if you are cooking a full menu.  For example, I ended up chopping garlic 3 or 4 separate times for different recipes instead of doing all the garlic at once. Research shows that switching between tasks takes more time than doing one at a time. Another benefit is that you lower the chance of cross-contamination (meats and veggies) and use fewer cutting boards 🙂

Tips:

  1. Clean your kitchen before you start.
  2. Prepare slow-cooker dishes first. Set em’ and forget em’ while you work on other recipes 🙂
  3. Wash dishes as you go. This reduced the number of dishes that I used and the cleanup I had at the end.

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What I made:

1. Paleo meatloaf:

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2. Crockpot sweet potato chili

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3. Garlic herb Crusted Pork Roast (sub for pork tenderloin)

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4. Almond butter chicken

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5. Jalapeno Chicken Burgers

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6. Pumpkin walnut protein muffins (my recipe that I added on)

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Grocery shopping took me an hour and a half and cooking took me 4 hours (10am-2pm). We had chili for supper (it was awesome!) and now I have a freezer full of yummy meals to help me through this busy month of marking and writing publications 🙂 You can have better work life balance and Once a Month Meals can help. Check it out!

*This post is cross-posted on my blog about nursing teaching and research (emilyaread.com)

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Simple Workouts to Do at Home

Don’t have enough time to get to the gym? Or maybe you are just feeling a little extra lazy today?  Well now, here are some workouts for you.  Get off the couch and get in a little workout – your metabolism will thank you 😉

I LOVE BURPIES WORKOUT

Thank you to the lovely kin students in Winnipeg for this gem...love it!

Instructions: do as many burpies as you can.  Now do 5 more. Catch your breathe.  Repeat.

SNOWSTORM PREPAREDNESS WORKOUT:

This one is especially good if you live in an apartment building, Crowell Tower, or are staying in a hotel during a snowstorm (real or imagined).

Instructions: Start at the bottom of the stairwell. Sprint (or run) all the way up to the top.  Walk/jog back down to the start.  Repeat as many times as you can in 20 minutes.  You can also make it more challenging by alternating your stepping pattern each set.  Try single step, double step, left leg leading, right leg leading, and/or bunny hops just to name a few variations.  You can also fill a backpack with heavy things (I recommend something soft like a bag of flour vs dumbbells that may stab you in the spine) or strap on some ankle weights for added resistance.

TABATA SOMETHING

Don’t have a treadmill in your basement?  Don’t have a basement?  No problem!  Burn some fat and work your muscles with a tabata style workout.

1 round = 20s as fast as you can of exercise + 10s rest x 8 reps (4 minutes total)

Aim to complete 3-6 sets, depending on your fitness level.

Exercise selection:  If you aren’t so hardcore, you may want to alternate between upper and lower exercise within each tabata round.  For example, do 2os pushups, 10 s rest, 20s squats, 10s rest and repeat until the 4 min is up. You can also try some lunge jumps, mountain climbers, chair dips, plank crawlers, up downs, etc.  You can also do one exercise for the whole 4 min round then switch it up.  Challenge yourself to get as many reps in your last set as you did in your first!  Also, make sure you rest in between sets to recover.

THE RANDOM WORKOUT

You can just make something up.  Have 10min and that’s it?

Do as many reps as you can in 15 seconds each of:

  1. pushups
  2. Squats
  3. Plank crawlers
  4. Lunge jumps (or tuck jumps)

See how many rounds you can do in your small timeframe.  Sure beats sitting on the couch!

It’s amazing how much you can do with next to nothing when that’s all you have to work with.  Not that I don’t love barbells and kettlebells…just saying, they aren’t always necessary.  You can get a super workout without taking up your whole day 🙂

~Live Inspired~!

Emily

Chocolate Awesome Energy Bars

I love experimenting in the kitchen so today I made up a new recipe for some delicious chocolate peanut butter energy bars that are easy, nutritious, and very tasty.   They are made from natural ingredients and give you lots of important micronutrients including Vitamin B6, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Selenium, Thiamin, and Zinc – awesome!

If you are eating low carb, you can replace the oats with ground flax meal and the wheat flour with coconut or almond flour.   You can also opt to use Stevia instead of honey.  As a post-workout snack, you may want to lower the fat content by using cooked pumpkin or applesauce instead of peanut butter and substituting another dried fruit instead of walnut pieces. 

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans, mashed or blended in a food processor (not a regular blender, as it will just get stuck in there!)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (smooth)
  • 1/4 cup honey (or agave nectar if you prefer)
  • 1 small smooshy/ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F)
  2. Put beans in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Or, blend in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Add in banana and mash into beans (or mash banana in a small bowl and then add it to the big bowl, depending on your cooking style)
  4. Stir in the honey until mixed through
  5. Now add the peanut butter, mix through
  6. Next add in the oats and mix it all together
  7. Time to add in the cocoa and the flour
  8. Finally add in your raisins & walnuts and mix until texture is uniform throughout.
  9. Spray a 9″ x 9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil.
  10. Pour mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly along bottom of the pan
  11. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes (check with a knife or toothpick to see if it’s done)
  12. Let cool 10 min before cutting into pieces (I like to cut it into 9, like a tic-tac-toe board!)
  13. Wrap it up in foil or store in a reusable container.
  14. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving contains 270 calories, 12g healthy fats, 36g carbs, 10g protein, 6.5g fibre